In a talk before members of the Navy on Monday, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said, "What bothers me the most is how clever the enemy is."
Interestingly, I am in balanced harmony with Secretary Rumsfeld in a very Eastern Zen way. That whole yin-yang "opposites" thing.
What bothers me the most is how stupid the Administration is.
In fairness, our symmetry is thrown off a bit because two things actually bother me the most, if that's possible. The other is the 2,636 American deaths. I'm not sure where that falls on Mr. Rumsfeld's list, but he might not be as bothered because he's just glad the death toll isn't even higher. Considering that there may be as many as 48,000 Americans wounded, I understand his thinking.
Normally, of course, on any list deaths would stand alone, but this is operatic stupidity. Thinking we'll be greeted by candy and flowers, not having enough troops to quell the initial rioting, the lack of body armor, "Mission Accomplished," torture, not having a plan for getting out, and...well, those sort of things. There are others, but when your glass is full of stupid, any overflow just becomes really annoying to mop up.
By the way, I'm also bothered by the $311 billion the war has cost, but that's just money, and we can make it up some way. I'm not exactly sure how, since we're cutting taxes, but that's probably one of those other things President Bush will leave to "other Presidents," as he said. Anyway, that's why the whole money issue isn't on my "most" list.
To Mr. Rumsfeld's great credit, he explained in detailed specifics his concerns. "They are actively manipulating the media in this country," he noted, adding, "they can lie with impunity."
Okay, I'll admit at first I got confused because I thought he was talking about the Bush Administration, so that's my fault, and I apologize. But in my defense, given that the White House helped create fake journalist "Jeff Gannon," paid columnist Armstrong Williams to promote its interests, and hired fake journalist Karen Ryan to produce TV "reports" about Social Security, you can at least understand my confusion.
Still, it's unclear why Mr. Rumsfeld is surprised the enemy is using lies during wartime. You'd think he would have realized the likelihood before the fighting began. After all, we certainly use disinformation (gadzooks, at least I hope we do!) - but maybe because he thought the war would be short, he just figured the enemy wouldn't have the time to think up any whoppers.
Later in the day, Mr. Rumsfeld attended a convention of the Veterans of Foreign Wars, where he received the Dwight D. Eisenhower Distinguished Service Award. On a very positive note, there is no evidence Mr. Eisenhower turned in his grave.
In his speech, Mr. Rumsfeld finally corrected the lies of the enemy. "In fact," he stated, "the overwhelming majority of victims of their terrorism have been the thousands and thousands of innocent Muslims - men, women and children - that they have killed."
Lest anyone nitpick, it should be pointed out that these deaths are completely different from the thousands of innocent Muslims we have killed. The loss of civilian lives has tragically always been part of the deep sadness of war, and American leaders do their best to be careful and keep such things to a minimum. It is a distinction that would not be lost on those very men, women and children if they weren't now...well, dead.
Happily, we can learn how to deal with the lies because Mr. Rumsfeld has an explanation for them. "The enemy is so much better at communicating," he observed. "I wish we were better at countering that."
This is important, because it is from understanding that growth comes. If only we had good communications in this country. If only there was a strong print media, a "network" of television outlets, some of those Internets the President has spoken of. Compared to the wily insurgents in the bombed out Third World Iraq, we are at a great disadvantage. If the White House only had skills in communicating. O, where is Scott McLellan when you really need him? It's such a shame this isn't the sort of thing Karl Rove does.
As Mr. Rumsfeld rightfully notes, all these enemy lies to Americans "raise questions in their minds as to whether the cost is worth it." Indeed, they do. Of course, when you spend $311 billion for anything, you ought to figure that someone is going to eventually raise questions about the price tag..
In the end, the Defense Secretary was wistful about the situation. "While some at home argue for tossing in the towel," he mused, "the enemy is waiting and hoping that we will do just that." It is a mark of character that Mr. Rumsfeld is different from the enemy. He is not hoping they throw in the towel. No, we will stay the course.
And it all boils down to the darn enemy lying and being better at communicating. "That's the thing that keeps me up at night," he says.
Me, the thing that keeps me up at night is reading speeches by Mr. Rumsfeld.
It's that whole yin-yang thing.